AUGUSTA — Which Maine casino has the loosest slots? One resident filed a Freedom of Access Act request to find out.
Executive Director Patrick Fleming told the Gambling Control Board on Tuesday that he'd received a FOAA request for the payout percentages at the Oxford Casino and Hollywood Casino in Bangor. Another constituent requested that the information be posted on the board's website, “so patrons can make a choice as to which casino they want to go to based on slot payouts.”
The board denied the request after hearing from both casinos and from Assistant Attorney General Lauren LaRochelle, the board's legal counsel.
The FOAA request was for each casino's payout by denomination, LaRochelle said. While the board has access to the information, both casinos said the payout information is proprietary and should be exempted from FOAA.
Attorney Michael Mahoney, representing Hollywood Casino Hotel & Raceway, said that while the casino understands the need to keep the public informed, giving that information could harm the casinos.
He said casino legislation that requires monthly reports to the public and the Legislature specifically asks for revenues, credits dispersed, administrative expenses and allocation of slot and table game income. “I think noticeably absent in that is payback percentages,” Mahoney said.
He said legislators who wrote the statute “recognize the sensitivity” of the payback amounts of slot machines. He compared supplying the information to “giving your opponent a copy of your playbook,” and said it would give other New England casinos an advantage.
He said that of 42 states that allow gaming, only six require casinos to provide the amount that slot machines pay out.
Attorney Melissa O'Dea, representing the Oxford Casino, agreed. “I think there's no doubt that we would like Hollywood's numbers and they would like ours.” Still, she said, it would put both casinos at a competitive disadvantage.
“We do certainly take the position that the information is proprietary,” O'Dea said.
The board voted unanimously to deny the request on the grounds that it could be competitively harmful to both casinos.
The slot machine paybacks aren't the only confidential information the board gets. Specific surveillance information, including the positions of casino security cameras, are also off-limits to the public to protect the casinos' security.